If you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you may have come across the term “favorite person,” or “FP” for short. Though the concept of having a favorite person is one familiar to a lot of people in the BPD community, others might hear the term and think, “Oh, it’s like a best friend.”
While a best friend can be an FP, it’s usually so much more than that — and it’s important to know the differences. To oversimplify, best friends are people you love and count on, but a favorite person is someone you have an emotional dependence on, someone who can “make or break” your day.
We wanted to know what having a favorite person means to someone with borderline personality disorder, so we asked our BPD community to share how they define this term.
In addition to the insight from our community, The Mighty spoke with psychologist Dr. April Foreman, who specializes in working with people with BPD, and asked her to share her tips for navigating a relationship with a favorite person (which you can read below our community responses).
Here’s how members of our BPD community define a favorite person:
1. “Having a favorite person for me is the constant shifting between idealization and devaluation. When anything changes (the tone of their voice, body language, etc.), the shifting only goes between the two extremes. It’s like I’m the happiest when they tell me they love me and they are there, but I have self-harming and suicidal thoughts when anything changes.” — Salma H.
2. “It’s like being in love without the romantic wishes. Platonic love. You might not even know the person very well, but you still idolize them so much. You create your own image of who they are, so for you, they become exactly who you need.” — Lena M.
3. “It’s dangerous. It’s needing someone so bad it’s physically painful when they leave. It’s apologizing for every tiny thing because you don’t want to give them a reason to leave you. It’s picking fights just to make sure they’ll stay. It’s awful.” — Hannah D.
4. “[They’re] like my drug. Whenever I get their attention, I’m happy for a while. But when I don’t, it’s like the world’s falling apart and I don’t know what to do.” — Jordie W.
5. “[A] favorite person is the calm port in the storm, the low energy vibration person that can level you out just by existing. [A] favorite person can also be the one who we hold up high and try to emulate. The favorite person is the one who makes us feel happy. Also can be the one who we lash out at and feel the worst about it because we don’t want them to leave.” — Jennifer R.
Navigating relationships is tricky for most, but when you’re dealing with symptoms like heightened emotions, fear of abandonment and black-and-white thinking, characteristic of borderline personality disorder, it can make it more difficult.
“What’s hard for people in general, and for folks with borderline personality disorder specifically, is that relationships and the ‘ebbs’ of the relationships or the negotiated ‘gives and takes’ of relationships are sort of fluid over time,” Dr. Foreman told The Mighty.
Because there is no definitive “relationship rulebook,” people with borderline personality disorder may feel at a loss when thinking about how to maintain a healthy relationship with a favorite person or important loved one.
We wanted to share some strategies people with BPD could find useful in maintaining balance in relationships, so we asked Dr. Foreman to give us some helpful tips.
Here’s what she told us:
1. Pay attention to the give and take of your relationships.
One of the most important aspects of satisfying relationships is finding a balance. A good way to check the balance is paying attention to what each person is putting in vs. what they are getting out of it.
“If you’re giving all the time or if you’re taking all the time or a large percentage of the time, that relationship is just not going to be satisfying,” Dr. Foreman explained. “What we know is that people are dissatisfied in relationships that are out of balance.”
2. Ask yourself mindful questions.
Practicing mindfulness about your actions is an important aspect of satisfaction in relationships. Below are some examples of mindful questions Dr. Foreman suggested to ask yourself about your favorite person.
Am I only calling this person in crisis?
Am I using this person to balance my mood and behavior — things I should do on my own?
Am I relying on them more than they’re relying on me?
Dr. Foreman also recommends keeping “shared enjoyment of the world” in mind. Asking yourself from time to time if you are focusing on doing things you both enjoy can help keep the relationship balanced.
3. Think about your intensity.
Experiencing emotions more intensely than others is something many people with BPD struggle with. Dr. Foreman says this kind of emotional intensity is “like having your favorite song — and to borrow a reference from ‘Spinal Tap’ — set on the volume of 11. Nobody likes their favorite thing when it’s too loud, too intense, too strong.”
Modulating intensity is key when thinking about a relationship with a favorite person. “Instead of ‘I love you with the passion of a thousand fiery suns’ it might be nice to do a small gesture,” she said.
Small gestures are a great way to express you care for someone without being emotionally overwhelming. Expressing things in a toned down way “not because you care less but because it’s like playing a song at just the right volume.”
4. Cultivate a broad spectrum of relationships in your life.
A great relationship practice for people with BPD is cultivating a spectrum of types of relationships you have in your life. Dr. Foreman said it’s important to remember, “some friends are your best friends forever, some people are meant to be occasional friends.”
She mentioned practicing small talk as an easy way to gain acquaintance relationships in your life. For example, if a co-worker or the mailman asks how you are or what you did on the weekend, replying with a short synopsis that isn’t a full account is an easy way to modulate intensity.